Referee James Adcock comes out publicly as gay for National Coming Out Day

The professional football referee assures others working in football that being LGBTQ+ will not affect their career.

James Adcock sits on his sofa speaking to BBC about his experience being gay in football
Image: Twitter @jack_murley

James Adcock, a professional referee working across the three tiers of the English Football League, has opened up about his sexuality as a part of National Coming Out Day. The Englishman spoke to the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast about his experience of being openly gay within the space of the so-called ‘beautiful game’.

Adcock first disclosed his sexuality to colleagues over 10 years ago and says that he has felt fully supported since. He has officiated over 500 games, including matches in the Championship, League One and League Two, which are the highest tiers of English professional football following the Premier League.

At the start of his career, he combined refereeing with his job as a PE teacher. However, in 2016 he was appointed to the EFL’s Select Group 2, allowing him to pursue his footballing role full-time.

In this latest interview with the BBC, James Adcock aims to reassure other LGBTQ+ that coming out will not negatively impact their career.

“A lot of referees will think that they can’t come out because it’s going to affect their progression within the sport,” he began.

“But you are not judged by your sexuality and, if you are confident enough in yourself, you’re going to have every support from every colleague and it’s not going to affect you.

“To come out as gay or not come out as gay, you have to choose that as a person and not as a ref. But, from the top-level down, there’s not an issue.”

It’s been as much as a decade since Adcock opened up about his sexuality, and he admits he has never had any homophobic abuse during games or from colleagues. As he is now speaking even more publicly about it, he hopes that it will not spark any negative changes in his experience. 

“Just treat me the way you’d treat anyone else. You’re there as a supporter, a player, or a manager and you judge me on my performance. 

That’s what I’m judged on. I’m not refereeing because I’m gay, I’m refereeing because I’m refereeing a game of football, so just treat me as a normal human being.”

James Adcock is one of a growing number of out LGBTQ+ sportspeople, but male English professional football remains yet to see an active player come out.

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